An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of May 23,   2010
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

    ON BEING A MACHINE

My shortwave radio died so now I get my news through a daily email from the BBC. Friday one of the nine headlines sent was entitled "Scientists in the US make "artificial life." The story reported that human- formulated genetic code had been inserted into a cell that produced over a billion decedents that inherited the manmade genetic information. This is scary stuff when you remember that bioweaponry research gets a lot of money. You can read the article yourself here.

This got me to thinking about the gray area between life and death. For instance, scientists debate whether viruses are living or not.

For my part, I've long accepted that I myself am basically a machine. My basic predispositions were programmed at birth in my genetic code, and my everyday behavior consists mostly of responding to stimuli in ways profoundly influenced by my body's electrochemical state (especially hormonal), and the history of how my brain developed its network of neurons, and what experiences my brain has registered throughout life. Only sometimes is there a little more to me than that and, of course, that "little more" is what's important to me.

A lot of people regard this as a "mechanistic, deterministic philosophy" conceiving of humans as nothing but slavish, unspontaneous robots. My experience has been exactly the opposite.

For, accepting the premise that I am a machine made it easier to abandon an enormous burden of cultural and psychological baggage that once really did enslave me and deny my spontaneity. What a relief it was long ago when I could accept that my "evil thoughts" were rather normal yearnings for a young man, and that my "craziness" was the same confusion that besets any innocent computer when conflicting commands are received -- and society sends us all plenty of conflicting commands. A good thing about being a machine is that just about any problem can be sorted out if you get together all your information, then approach the matter rationally and systematically.

Abandoning those features of my cultural and psychological baggage that once kept me down cleared my mind to such an extent that finally I saw just how exquisite the Sixth Miracle of Nature really was -- the Sixth Miracle being the one magically enabling living things with complex brains to be inspired and to behave in ways NOT dictated by their genes, hormones and the rest.

It looks to me as if the whole Universe is on automatic pilot, except for a few sparks of miracle-making here and there, such as the Sixth Miracle when it comes into our lives here on Earth. In fact, I like to think of the Sixth Miracle of Nature as humanity's invitation to enter into communion with the Universal Creative Impulse. And, could there be anything freer, more dancing and jubilant than communing with the Spirit evolving the Universe?

To enter into this communion no ritual is needed, no secret mantra must be learned, no dues paid or book bought, and there are many paths.

The path I took was to sensitize myself to the things of Nature, then when inspiration engendered an inner voice, I listened to it, and began conducting my life accordingly. Facebook Icon.